Microbes in the News

Title: For zombie microbes, deep-sea buffet is just out of reach

Date: January 22, 2019

Website: ScienceDaily

Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Link to Article:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190122104617.htm

Summary: This article discusses microbes below the ocean floor that posses some odd characteristics, such as slow-motion growth. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution performed some research on these curious microbes and found that the organisms are not fully utilizing molecules available in their environment. Although the microbes should be able to take advantage of the carbon in the sediment, as it is in a form that they are able to metabolize, they fail to do so. One researcher concluded that the microbes can not access the molecules because they are physically too far away. Moreover, the microbes don’t have sufficient energy to acquire the sporadically located molecules. This research could potentially aid in obtaining further knowledge on not only microbes, but other organisms as well.

Connections: As we have been discussing in both lecture and lab, microbes need specific conditions to survive and reproduce. For example, various agar plates, with differing quantities of ingredients and nutrients, are used to cultivate microbes. The research in this article demonstrates the vast deviance that microbes have from one another. While some need constant access to high levels of nutrients, others, like the ones discussed in the article, can survive by other means. It is vital to be aware of and comprehend these differences when working with microbes both in and out of the lab.

Critical analysis: This article initially caught my eye because of the bizarre title, and I was further intrigued to learn about these microbe’s survival. I was aware that microbes inhabit a prodigious range of environments, however, this article opened my eyes to just how much microbes utilize various resources. Furthermore, I usually associate microbes with rapid reproduction, however, this research reveals that it can take years for cell division to occur. Overall, the article and the research backing it seem scientifically sound. However, from my perspective, this article was slightly misleading, and therefore failed to accurately communicate science to the public. Although I recognize the use of the term “zombie microbes’ in regard to the article, I was expecting different content within the text. I think individuals may incorrectly attribute features to the microbes based on phrases used in reference to the microbes “zombie-like’ characteristics.

Question: The article mentions that the microbial geochemist, Colleen Hansel, asserts “this research may help us understand some of the limitations on life in general’. What applications might this research have in helping us gain information about the world around us (i.e. give an example)?

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